Rationality Quotes May 2013

Here's another installment of rationality quotes. The usual rules apply:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, Overcoming Bias, or HPMoR.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.

 

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"The spatial anomaly has interacted with the tachyonic radiation in the nebula, it's interfering with our sensors. It's impossible to get a reading."

"There's no time - we'll have to take the ship straight through it!"

"Captain, I advise against this course of action. I have calculated the odds against our surviving such an action at three thousand, seven hundred and forty-five to one."

"Damn the odds, we've got to try... wait a second. Where, exactly, did you get that number from?"

"I hardly think this is the time for-"

"No. No, fuck you, this is exactly the time. The fate of the galaxy is at stake. Trillions of lives are hanging in the balance. You just pulled four significant digits out of your ass, I want to see you show your goddamn work."

"Well, I used the actuarial data from the past fifty years, relating to known cases of ships passing through nebulae that are interacting with spatial anomalies. There have been approximately two million such incidents reported, with only five hundred and forty-two incidents in which the ship in question survived intact."

"And did you at all take into account that ship building technology has improved over the past fifty years, and that ours is not necessarily an average ship?"

"Indeed I did, Captain. I weighted the cases differently based on how recent they were, and how close the ship in question was in build to our own. For example, one of the incidents with a happy ending was forty-seven years ago, but their ship was a model roughly five times our size. As such, I counted the incident as having twenty-four percent of the relevance of a standard case."

"But what of our ship's moxie? Can you take determination and drive and the human spirit into account?"

"As a matter of fact I can, Captain. In our three-year history together, I have observed that both you and this ship manage to beat the odds with a measurable regularity. To be exact, we tend to succeed twenty-four point five percent more often than the statistics would otherwise indicate - and, in fact, that number jumps to twenty-nine point two percent specifically in cases where I state the odds against our success to three significant digits or greater. I have already taken that supposedly 'unknowable' factor into account with my calculations."

"And you expect me to believe that you've memorized all these case studies and performed this ridiculously complicated calculation in your head within the course of a normal conversation?"

"Yes. With all due respect to your species, I am not human. While I freely admit that you do have greater insight into fields such as emotion, interpersonal relations, and spirituality than I do, in the fields of memory and calculation, I am capable of feats that would be quite simply impossible for you. Furthermore, if I may be perfectly frank, the entire purpose of my presence on the bridge is to provide insights such as these to help facilitate your command decisions. If you're not going to heed my advice, why am I even here?"

"Mm. And we're still sitting at three thousand seven hundred to one against?"

"Three thousand, seven hundred and forty five to one."

"Well, shit. Well, let's go around, then."

The Vulcan your Vulcan could sound like if he wasn't made of straw, I guess? Link

To be exact, we tend to succeed twenty-four point five percent more often than the statistics would otherwise indicate

Well... not quite. The selection effect makes the survival number basically impossible to calculate, but regularly surviving risky scenarios seems like it would provide a bit better odds for the influence of moxie than 249:200.

Fun Bayes application: what's the likelihood ratio for the existence vs. nonexistence of moxie-based immunity to death during battle for military leaders, given the military history of Earth?

Well... not quite. The selection effect makes the survival number basically impossible to calculate, but regularly surviving risky scenarios seems like it would provide a bit better odds for the influence of moxie than 249:200.

At some point, if the Vulcan is smart enough, I suspect the calculation would begin to hinge more on plot twists and the odds that the story is nearing its end, as the hypothesis that they are wearing Plot Armor rises up to the forefront.

I'd also suspect that the Vulcan would realize quickly that as his prediction for the probability of success approaches 1, the odds of a sudden plot reversal that plunges them all in deep poo also approaches 1. And then the Vulcan would immediately adjust to always spouting off some random high-odds-against-us number all the time just to make sure they'd always succeed heroically.

Ow, this is starting to sound very newcomblike.

And then the Vulcan would immediately adjust to always spouting off some random high-odds-against-us number all the time just to make sure they'd always succeed heroically.

Holy crap, canon!Spock is a genius rationalist after all.

The C3PO of rationalists.

(At least when in a fight, the bridge crew always takes great care to ask for damage reports, and whether someone anywhere on the ship broke a finger, before, you know, firing back.)

Hey, the humans have to do something while the computer (which somehow hasn't obtained sentience) does all the real work.

The computer is secretly making paper clips in cargo bay 2, beaming them into space when noone is looking.

I want to believe.

The last line of reasoning doesn't quite work. Not every incident has an episode made out of it.

I don't see why not. Clearly, they're even more immune to death, dismemberment and other Bad Endings when they're not in a running episode. Or they just never run into the kind of exciting situations that happen during episodes.

I also suspect that distinguishing whether an episode is running would be even easier. One dead-obvious clue: The captain insists on going on an away mission, RedShirts are sent with him, all the RedShirts die unless they're part of the primary rotation bridge crew. Instant signal that an episode is running. AFAICT, very few redshirts ever die in this manner outside of episode incidents.

I was referring to the chances that something would go wrong when it looks nearly certain to succeed. Things can go blissfully smoothly when the camera isn't running.

This discussion seems like it needs a reference to Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Yes.

Hell yes it did.

*adds to want-to-read list*